Directed by Sam Raimi [Other horror films: It’s Murder! (1977), Crimewave (1985), Evil Dead II (1987), Army of Darkness (1992), The Gift (2000), Drag Me to Hell (2009)]
Probably one of horror fandom’s more beloved movies, The Evil Dead succeeds in possessing a strong atmosphere and special effects that go beyond, far beyond, expectations. So of course, in typical Jiggy fashion, it’s never been a movie I’ve ever been overly fond of.
Which isn’t to say that it’s not okay. I could sort of see myself watching this one every couple of years (though at what point in my life I’ll be revisiting a movie that often, I really couldn’t say), and it definitely has enough going for it to be a movie that horror fans should at least give a shot once, but from the first time I saw it, it’s never been my particular cup of tea.
Part of this (and an admittedly small part) might be because, while I find Ash’s character development sort of interesting, he’s not a character that really stands out to me. Sure, he seems the everyman that you’d expect, sometimes too scared in tense situations to jump into action (I certainly can’t blame him there), but even when he really starts fighting back (about an hour or so into the movie), I just don’t feel much in the way of interest for him.
Another thing is that while this movie is primarily a dark story of demonic forces possessing and thus torturing the last remaining character, there are some occasional lighter elements thrown in (the demonic mocking, over-the-top violence at times). Now, this is upped to 11 in the second film, but the amusing thing is that it felt more consistent in the second movie, and I personally find myself gravitating more toward that one than I ever did this.
But like I said, none of this is to say the movie is by any means bad. It’s obviously a film that has a place in the heart of a lot of people, and I certainly respect what Raimi and Campbell were able to due with a limited budget (those gore scenes themselves, from the pencil stabbing to the epic finale, were well-worth watching the movie for), and again, the atmosphere is great.
As for the cast, the only name that really need be mentioned is Bruce Campbell, who starts off as a pretty unassuming character but, of course, over the course of the film becomes more willing to stand up and fight. Campbell was in a variety of films after this point (such as Maniac Cop, Moontrap, and Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), and you can see why. If there was anyone else who might deserve a mention, it’d be Ellen Sandweiss, who was my personal favorite character, and it’s a shame she went the way she did (especially after that tree rape).
And speaking of that tree rape, what a disturbing scene. It’s not even all that explicit (though it does provide one of the two scenes of nudity in the film), but it is a scene that stands out and probably remains one of the more unforgettable sequences of the film.
I do admit to finding the ending a bit of a cop-out, but I won’t deny that it has an element of charm to it. Which can really be said for the whole of the film – though it’s not and never has been a movie I really cared for, it’s still charming, and it does enough right to merit it’s status. It’s just that The Evil Dead doesn’t do near as much for me as it does so many others.
8 thoughts on “The Evil Dead (1981)”